Living Confidently

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From The Message Bible:

With God on our side . . . how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:

“They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.
We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.”

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.

Romans 8:31-39
The Message Bible

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What does God want from me?

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Our thinking about life with God inevitably confronts us with this crucial question: What does God want from me? When Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment, he answered clearly: love God with all you have. If we asked Jesus, What does God want from me? I believe he would answer, God wants you to know and to love him. This narrative tells of a God who is loving and merciful, whose desire is to love and to be loved. This in no way negates the fact that God is unflinchingly against sin. God hates sin because it hurts his children. But God is crazy about his children.

The Westminster Larger Catechism, written in 1648, opens with a question and an answer:

Question: What is the chief and highest end of man?

Answer: Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy Him forever.

I love the concept of fully enjoying God forever. Do you think that God wants you to enjoy him? Though many people do not believe this, I think it is what God most wants. Julian of Norwich once wrote: “The greatest honor we can give God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of his love.” That statement shocked me when I first read it. The greatest honor we can give God? Isn’t it to die for him on the mission field? Julian offers another narrative: “What God most wants is to see you smile because you know how much God loves you.” My mission-field narrative does not describe a God I would naturally love. Julian’s narrative tells me of a God I cannot help but love. The God Julian knew is a God who delights in us.

—James Bryan Smith,
The Good and Beautiful God

Love Made Manifest

ARTWORK FOR EASTER SEASONIf you reject him,
he answers you with tears;
if you wound him,
he bleeds out cleansing;
if you kill him,
he dies to redeem;
if you bury him,
he rises again to bring resurrection.
Jesus is love made manifest.

– Charles Spurgeon

It Changes Everything

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“God loves you”—isn’t that the most well-worn of clichés? It’s just standard filler for the laziest, most obvious and repetitive homilies. Smile. Yawn. Everybody knows that by now, at least everybody who has ever been in a church or read a Bible.

No. Exactly the opposite. It is not familiar. It is shattering. It changes everything. And most Christians do not realize it.

–Peter Kreeft,
The God Who Loves You

Sin and the Love of God

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When we believe
that God is something
other than a lover,
it is inevitable that
we will sin.

–Peter Kreeft

Published in: on 05/09/2016 at 10:08  Leave a Comment  
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What makes God glorious?

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“Glory” is a timeworn, many-sided, vaguely understood term of rich significance. Most importantly it has to do with God, the source and sum of it. Glory is what inspires wonder and admiration. It is manifested excellence, the outward display of beauty and goodness, the visible demonstration of greatness.

The glory of God is when
God lets us see what He’s like.

It’s when His wonderfulness goes public, His awesomeness comes into view, His splendor is sighted.

We observe the glory of God in creation—an awe-inspiring, but limited view. We get a close-up view when we contemplate Jesus, the human life of God. The knowledge of the glory of God is seen partially in nature, but fully in the face of Jesus Christ.

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Great are the mysteries of creation. Greater still is the mystery of godliness, when the Architect of the galaxies was manifested in human form. The heavens display the greatness of God’s power. The Word made flesh displays the greatness of His love.

The heavens show us God’s hand;
Jesus shows us His heart.

The heavens declare the glory of God, but Jesus of Nazareth is the glory of God. He is the brightness of God’s glory, the express image of His person.

The heavens declare the glory of God in an impersonal, distant way. Jesus brings the glory of God near in a living, breathing, loving Person.

Jesus is the glory of God made human.

And never was He so glorious as when he became horribly inglorious. It happened on a cross—where the worst and the best, the highest and the lowest collided. The crucifixion of the incarnate God did not extinguish His glory, it expanded it. At Calvary the glory of God blazed forth in volcanic abundance.

It was in the moment of greatest ugliness that His beauty shone most brightly. It was in the place of utmost shame that His splendor burst forth. Violence brought virtue to light, as the crushing of a rose releases its fragrance.

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Glory was nailed to a cross and lifted up for all to see. The veil in the temple was ripped open—God’s glory had been revealed. It was the glory of His irrepressible, self-giving, self-sacrificing, redeeming, restoring love. It was the glory of His grace.

The heavens declare a piece of His glory.
The cross declares it all.

Here is the final unveiling of glory. It is a revelation, an earthquake, a feast, a waterfall, a love story, a symphony, a tsunami, a game changer, a thirst quencher, an explosion of hope, a healing balm for the wounds of our broken and flawed lives.

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“Cross” and “glory” are as far apart as two words can possibly be. They are polar opposites. Crucifixion was not just about torture—it was about shame. It was the ultimate disgrace. For Hebrews it meant being cursed. No one ever dreamed a Roman cross could be glorious.

Until God got on one.

He makes all things glorious.

Even a shameful cross.

Even unworthy sinners.

Such is the greatness of His glory.

–Jurgen O. Schulz

The first lesson

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No man loves God
except the man
who has first learned
that God loves him.

–Alexander MacLaren
(1826 – 1910)

When love takes over

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The event of falling in love is of such a nature that we are right to reject as intolerable the idea that it should be transitory. In one high bound it has overleaped the massive wall of our selfhood; it has made appetite itself altruistic, tossed personal happiness aside as a triviality and planted the interests of another in the centre of our being.

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Spontaneously and without effort we have fulfilled the law (towards one person) by loving our neighbour as ourselves. It is an image, a foretaste, of what we must become to all if Love Himself rules in us without a rival. It is even (well used) a preparation for that.

―C. S. Lewis
The Four Loves

Soak in God’s love

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The great work of our lives
is to rest in the great work of God.
The great work of our lives is to learn to soak
in the love of God, which was finished for you
on a cross . . . 2,000 years ago and which
pours out with new supply
every morning.

–Justin Buzzard

It is a promise

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The final secret, I think, is this: that the words “You shall love the Lord your God” become in the end less a command than a promise. And the promise is that, yes, on the weary feet of faith and the fragile wings of hope, we will come to love him at last as from the first he has loved us–loved us even in the wilderness, especially in the wilderness, because he has been in the wilderness with us. He has been in the wilderness for us. He has been acquainted with our grief.

–Frederick Buechner
A Room Called Remember

Calling forth joy

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To know that God is your Father and that he loves you, his adopted child, no less than he loves his only begotten Son and to know that enjoyment of God’s love and glory for all eternity are pledged to you brings inward delight that is sometimes over-whelming; and this also is the Spirit’s doing. For the “joy in the Holy Spirit,” in terms of which Paul defines the kingdom of God in Romans 14:17, is the “rejoicing in God” spoken of in Romans 5:2,11, and it is the Spirit’s witness to God’s love for us that calls forth this joy.

-James I. Packer
Keep in Step with the Spirit

Solid assurance

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The great basis
of Christian assurance
is not how much
our hearts are set on God,
but how unshakeably
his heart is set on us.

—Tim Keller

Published in: on 07/10/2014 at 11:32  Leave a Comment  
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The Divine Romance

Bride

“And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice over you.”
(Isaiah 62:5)

Every time God chooses an image for himself, he is saying something about us. Do you know what the bride looks like to the bridegroom as she walks down the aisle? She wears the most beautiful garments and jewels, and when he lays his eyes on her, he is absolutely delighted in her. And he wants to give her the world. How dare Jesus Christ use a metaphor like this, evoking this powerful human experience? Could it be that he loves his own like that? That he delights in you like that? Yes, he does. How different would your life be if you lived in moment-by-moment existential awareness of that?

–Timothy Keller
The Wedding Party

Image: James Nesbit

Knowing and relishing

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The heart of the Bible’s message, muted in the Old Covenant but shouted aloud in page after page of the New, is the improbable, astonishing, breathtaking good news that I am the one Jesus loves. . . .

At great cost, all by his own doing, Jesus makes me his own, loves me without condition, forgives me without remainder, places his own name on me, puts his own Spirit in me, and goes ahead to prepare a place for me. He’s made me a chosen people, a holy nation, a royal priesthood, one who belongs to God.

I am the one Jesus loves.

As are you.

. . . It is the wellspring of all we do and all we are. All life and ministry is overflow. And the inflow is this one thing: knowing and relishing and never forgetting that I am the one Jesus loves.

–Mark Buchanan
I Am the One Jesus Loves

Known and loved

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Tolkien says of the Gospel, “There is no tale men more wish to be true.” For life’s greatest joy is to be loved, passionately loved, infinitely loved; to be totally known, with all our wrinkles, and yet totally loved . . .

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To be loved and known at once: that is Heavenly. Remember the joy you felt when you received even a little of that, even the tiniest approximation to that, from one little stupid, sinful human being like yourself? Now multiply that by infinity, which is the difference between humanity and divinity, and you begin to understand the joy of being known and loved by God. Loved how much? This much. Christ-much.

–Peter Kreeft
The Philosophy of Jesus

Image: Stephen Darbishire

Published in: on 03/06/2014 at 11:48  Leave a Comment  
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One clear message

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Everything Jesus said
and did and suffered
is nothing else but a chain
of pointers that keep saying
one thing over again:
“The Father is
seeking you.”

–Helmut Thielicke

Image: Emil Nolde

Published in: on 02/13/2014 at 7:36  Leave a Comment  
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Loved into existence

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God, who needs nothing,
loves into existence
wholly superfluous creatures
in order that he may love
and perfect them.

–C. S. Lewis
The Four Loves

Published in: on 01/24/2014 at 5:44  Leave a Comment  
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Loved and valuable

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God loves us, not because 
we are so valuable; rather 
we are valuable because 
God loves us.

–Helmut Thielicke
(1908 – 1986)

Published in: on 12/29/2013 at 3:48  Leave a Comment  
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The gift of grace

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After centuries of handling and mishandling, most religious words have become so shopworn nobody’s much interested anymore. Not so with grace, for some reason. Mysteriously, even derivatives like gracious and graceful still have some of the bloom left.

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Grace is something you can never get but can only be given. There’s no way to earn it or deserve it or bring it about any more than you can deserve the taste of raspberries and cream or earn good looks or bring about your own birth.

A good sleep is grace and so are good dreams. Most tears are grace. The smell of rain is grace. Somebody loving you is grace. Loving somebody is grace. Have you ever tried to love somebody?

A crucial eccentricity of the Christian faith is the assertion that people are saved by grace. There’s nothing you have to do. There’s nothing you have to do. There’s nothing you have to do.

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The grace of God means something like: “Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are, because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It’s for you I created the universe. I love you.”

There’s only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can only be yours if you’ll reach out and take it.

Maybe being able to reach out and take it is a gift too.

–Frederick Buechner
Wishful Thinking

Image: Alan Ranger

Life is rooted in love

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Love seeks no cause beyond itself and no fruit. It is its own fruit, its own enjoyment. I love because I love; I love that I may love. Love is a great thing provided it recurs to its beginning, returns to its origin, and draws always from that Fountain which is perpetually in flood.

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Of all the feelings and affections of the soul, love is the only one by which the creature, though not on equal terms, is able to respond to the Creator and to repay what it has received from Him. For when God loves us He desires nothing but to be loved. He loves for no other reason, indeed, than that He may be loved, knowing that by their love itself those who love Him are blessed.

–Bernard of Clairvaux
(1091 – 1153)

God came near

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And look, now this distant God has come near to you in incomprehensible love. When you could not take hold of him, he has taken hold of you. When you could not seek him, he found you. When you were persecuting him, he loved you.

–Helmut Thielicke
Between God and Satan

Published in: on 10/09/2013 at 6:36  Leave a Comment  
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His undivided attention

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How often have we been told that it is important that we love God.  And this is true.  But is it far more important that God loves us!  Our love for God is secondary.  God’s love for us is first:  “This is the love I mean: not our love for God, but God’s love for us” (1 John 4:10).  This is the foundation…

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“We ourselves have known and put our faith in God’s love towards ourselves” (1 John 4:16).  This is the content of our faith–“God’s love towards ourselves.”  The whole Apostles’ Creed is nothing but a statement twelve times over of belief in this very love which God has for us…

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God does not measure love.  God cannot but love totally–100%.  If we think God is a person who can divide his love, then we are thinking not of God but of ourselves.  God is perfectly one, the perfect unity.  We have love, but God is love.  His love is not an activity.  It is his whole self.  If we but grasp some idea of this, we understand that God could not possibly give 100% of his love to his Son and then 70% to us.  He would not be God if he could do that.  When we read the dialogues of St. Catherine of Siena, we get the impression that God has nothing to do but simply occupy himself with Catherine.  And that is right.  The undivided attention of God is with her and with each of us.

–Peter Van Breeman, S.J.
The Courage to Accept Acceptance

God’s word of delight

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When Christians are unsure of the Father’s declarative word of delight over them, real Christian joy is absent; and passionate Christian living is lacking. Mobilizing Christians, who are unsure of God’s delight in them, . . . to serve . . . with unflappable confidence and joy is nearly impossible.

–Dan Cruver

Published in: on 09/24/2013 at 5:21  Leave a Comment  
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A place to pour out His love

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The whole raison d’etre of the universe lies in the fact that God will not be alone, that he will not be without us, but has freely and purposely created the universe and bound it to himself as the sphere where he may ungrudgingly pour out his love, and where we may enjoy communion with him.

–Thomas Torrance
Trinitarian Faith

Longing to be loved

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As soon as we become
spiritually deaf to the voice
that calls us the beloved,
we are going to look someplace else
to make us the beloved.

–Henri J. M. Nouwen

Image: Nelleke Pieters

Embracing the wild wonder

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What I believe is so magnificent, so glorious, that it is beyond finite comprehension. To believe that the universe was created by a purposeful, benign Creator is one thing. To believe that this Creator took on human vesture, accepted death and mortality, was tempted, betrayed, broken, and all for love of us, defies reason. It is so wild that it terrifies some Christians who try to dogmatize their fear by lashing out at other Christians, because tidy Christianity with all answers given is easier than one which reaches out to the wild wonder of God’s love, a love we don’t even have to earn.

–Madeleine L’Engle

A bottomless ocean

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Christ, the gift of God’s present forgiving love to every man and woman, is the door through which alone we can enter into our provision of hope.

Until we know the love
of our Father’s heart to us,
as manifested in Christ,
the future must always be to us
at best a dark and doubtful wilderness.

But when we know that all that we have conceived of our Father’s love, is as nothing to the reality—that he is indeed love itself—a love passing knowledge—a shoreless, boundless, bottomless ocean-fountain of love, of holy, sin-hating, sin-destroying love, which longs over us that we should be filled with itself—and be by it delivered from the power of evil—then, indeed, we are saved by hope, for we know that love must triumph and fulfill all its counsel.

–Thomas Erskine
(1750 – 1823)

The power of forgiving love

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Terror accomplishes no real obedience. Suspense brings forth no fruit unto holiness. No gloomy uncertainty as to God’s favour can subdue one lust, or correct our crookedness of will. But the free pardon of the cross uproots sin, and withers all its branches. Only the certainty of love, forgiving love, can do this.

–Horatius Bonar
God’s Way of Holiness

He never forgot who He was

 

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“This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17, NJKV).

These were the words of God Himself, and though only a handful, they were the most important words that Jesus would ever hear. These words were spoken before the oppressed and diseased were healed. They were spoken before He preached the Sermon on the Mount. They were spoken before He turned water into win or walked on water . . .

The trajectory of Jesus’ life and
(in a real sense) the fate of the world
hung on those few words.

They were not the words of a Father celebrating the good things His Son had done, because hadn’t really done anything yet. Even though Jesus was perfect, it wasn’t His perfection that brought the Father such delight. It was His very existence.

The language of God’s passion litters the pages of the Old Testament – the word beloved is scattered through the stories of my human lives. But now, for the first time in human history, a man had come who really believed that He was the beloved of God, one who would always remember and would make every decision of His life based on the truth of those words.

Jesus was like us in many ways. Scripture says He was “in all points tempted as we are.” But of all the ways He was different from us, perhaps this is the most crucial one: Jesus never forgot who He was.

–Jonathan Martin
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Loved

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In his love he wraps and holds us.
He enfolds us for love,
and he will never let us go.

–Julian of Norwich
(1342 – c. 1416)

Published in: on 06/09/2013 at 14:21  Leave a Comment  
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